Jaipur City Palace

The Best Things to Do in Jaipur

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Most first time visitors to India include Jaipur on their itinerary, and for good reason.  This historic city and the capital of Rajasthan blends old and new with its colourful, busy streets, picturesque and very pink Old City and incredible Amber Fort.

One of the most popular India itineraries is the Golden Triangle, which combines Delhi, Agra (the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur.  This circuit can be done easily in a week, covering 720 km, with Jaipur usually visited last.

Rasjasthan is known as the land of maharajahs, forts and palaces, as well as sand dunes, desert and colourful festivals.  April to June brings temperatures in the 40s, followed by the monsoon rains in July and August.  We visited in March and it was very pleasant with warm days and evenings.  From December to February, the nights typically drop to 10 degrees.  The best months to visit Jaipur are February, March, September, October and November.

Some of you might conjure up images of Jaipur from the movie, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and think that you will find a sleepy provincial backwater.  Jaipur is a city of 3 million and while the Old City is partially walled, it is busy and chaotic.  But, busy and chaotic in the most interesting way and showcases why visitors fall in love, while also being overwhelmed by India.Pink City of Jaipur

How long should you spend in Jaipur?  I would allocate a minimum of three nights in Jaipur to give you an opportunity to experience more than just the major sights.  This guide will explain what to do in Jaipur including a map showing the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants.

The Top Things to Do in Jaipur

Pink City Walking Tour

You could spend days wandering and exploring the back streets of the Old City.  Jaipur is known as “The Pink City” because in 1876 Majaraja Ram Singh painted the whole city pink as a sign of hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales.  To this day, law dictates that the facades must be kept pink, which is actually more like orange.  This is definitely where you should start your Jaipur sightseeing.

Pink City Old City

TIP: The Lonely Planet guide book has a good self-guided Old City walking tour that is a nice introduction to the Pink City and visits the most popular sights.  We did this our first morning in Jaipur and then went back and spent more time at places that interested us.  There are also inexpensive city tours that will provide more information about the history of the city.

Hawa Mahal

Aside from Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal is the most iconic building in Jaipur and is one of the must places to visit in Jaipur.  It was constructed in 1799 for the ladies of the royal household to watch out over life in the city.  The intricate pink building inspired by a honeycomb is five-stories high with 953 small windows.  The windows feature  pink lattice for the ladies to look out while maintaining purdah, which forbade women to appear in public without their faces covered.

Hawa Mahal

TIP: While you can pay to enter Hawa Mahal and take in the great views from the top, there are cafes across the street that offer great views of Hawa Mahal and the street action below.  We stopped for a drink at the Wind Café for a drink with a view.

Pink City Bazaars

Your walking tour will take you through the Pink City’s many bazaars buzzing with activity.  You will find shop keepers sitting on shop floors surrounded by colourful fabrics selling saris to families, cobblers making and hawking jootis, a traditional shoe, and gold, silver, bangles, pottery and more on offer.  Jaipur is renowned for its shopping, where commercial buyers come to stock up on the amazing Rajasthani products.  The bazaars are one of the most fun things to see in Jaipur even if you aren’t looking to buy anything.bazaars Jaipur

TIP: Make sure you bargain hard to avoid over-paying if you make any purchases, but also have fun with this experience.  Many shops can organize to send your purchases home for you; cheaper than you could yourself.

City Palace

Construction began on the City Palace in 1727, but it has been expanded upon for hundreds of years combining Rajasthani and Mughal influences.  Inside you will find vast courtyards, gardens, and buildings with collections of art, military items, and costumes.  The Palace continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family and there are often special events held here.

Some of the highlights of the City Palace is Mubarak Mahal or Welcome Palace, the gorgeously decorated gates of Pitam Niwas Chowk, the costumes and history of Maharaja Sawai Mansingh II Museum, the Armoury, and the Diwan-i-Am Art Gallery. You will also encounter immaculately and traditionally attired guards and may be treated to a musical performance.

The City Palace is located within the Old City and you can easily spend half a day at the City Palace on a thorough visit.  This is one of the most popular tourist places in Jaipur and it is easy to see why.

Practical Information: Entrance is 700 rupees for adults and 400 rupees for children 7-12.  You can purchase informative audio guides for 300 rupees for two.  If you are feeling hungry, there is a café in the first courtyard that serves up fries and samosas. They are open daily from 9:30-5.

Visiting with Kids Tip: The gift shop (located at the back of the first courtyard) sells a really engaging activity book that takes kids on a treasure hunt through the Palace.  There are three age-specific booklets where they have to count turrets, find certain weapons or costumes or draw the building.  Our kids loved these activity books and wouldn’t let us leave until they had completed every page and picked up their prize.  Activity booklets cost 50 rupees and include a clipboard and pencil.  Make the gift shop your first stop if you are visiting with kids.Jaipur with kids

Try a Real Lassi

You’ve probably had a lassi from your local Indian takeaway, but you haven’t had a real lassi until you taste one from the original Jaipur Lassiwala shop.  Lassis are a traditional Indian drink made up of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit.  I was most familiar with mango lassis before our visit to Jaipur, but the salty and sweet combination of the Jaipur Lassiwala is completely different.

The lassis here come creamy and foamy in a clay cup and without any fancy fruit flavours.  You will spot the queue of locals crowding around the take away shop where a large lassi will set you back 60 rupees.  They even come with a strange paper-thin edible layer on top.  Come early because the original shops closes by 4pm because they run out, every single day.

TIP: There are lots of impostors capitalizing on the popularity of Lassiwala.  To make sure you visit the original one on MI Road, look for “Shop 312” out front.

Amber Fort

Once you have spent some time in the Pink City, head 11 km outside of the city to see Jaipur’s biggest attraction: Amber Fort.  Pronounced “Amer”, this honey-coloured fort rises from a mountainous ridge in splendid grandeur.  This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Rajasthan.  Each room and area of the fort gets more and more spectacular the deeper you get.Amber Fort

From the base of the fort, you have three options to enter the fort: walk, take a vintage jeep or ride an elephant.  We discourage elephant riding and were happy to walk the 10 minutes uphill along a paved path to the entry gate, passing snake charmers and children hawking customized bracelets.

Inside the fort, there are rooms with walls covered in intricately cut mirrors, an historic hot tub in the hamman, the maharajas apartments, gorgeous doors, concubine chambers and narrow tunnels and stairways to explore.  Our guide brought each of these rooms to life and it was easy to envision what life was like in the Palace.  Amber Fort is one of the best places to see in Jaipur and shouldn’t be missed.

Practical Information:  Entrance to Amber Fort is 500 rupees for adults and 100 rupees for 7-12 year olds.  There are numerous licenses guides in the main courtyard and it is we worth the 300 rupees for an hour tour.  We were able to learn a lot more about this incredible place and its history from our guide who had been doing this tour for over 50 years! Alternatively you can purchase an audio guide to explore.  Opening hours are 8 am-6 pm daily with night entry from 7-9 pm.

Tip:  Amber is desert-like and it is very hot – bring lots of water and a hat.

Getting There: We hired a rickshaw and driver for the day for 700 rupees.  We visited Amber Fort in the morning and spent the afternoon shopping at the wholesale shops between Amber and Jaipur.  Alternatively, you can book an Amber Fort day trip that includes a guide and transportation from Jaipur.

Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing

Jaipur is renowned for its block printed fabrics and we had already fallen in love with the clothes at the Anokhi boutique in Jaipur and were eager to visit the Museum in Amber.  This small museum is located in a renovated haveli (Indian mansion) around the back of Amber Fort.  The first two floors explain the technique and the history of block printing, but it is upstairs that makes a visit here worthwhile.  Here craftsmen show you each step in the block printing process.  We watched a man carving out a wooden stamp in one room and a man printing a huge bolt of fabric in another.  You can even try it yourself by making a small square print.

If you are for what to see in Jaipur beyond the main tourist sights, the Anokhi Museum is a great hidden gem.

Practical Information: Entrance costs 80 rupees for an adult and 25 rupees for children.  Tuesday to Saturday hours are 10:30-5 and Sunday hours are 11-4:30.  They suggest tipping at the ticket booth so that tips are shared between all craftsman.

Tip: There is a small shop in the Museum, but save your shopping for the much larger Jaipur location at KK Square.

Jal Mahal

Mid-way between Amber and Jaipur there is a gorgeous water palace called Jal Mahal that is worth stopping at.  This beautiful palace rising out of Man Sager Lake was thought to have been built in the 18th century by Jai Singh II, the Rajput ruler of Amber.  You can’t visit the palace which is being restored by a wealthy businessman and developed into a series of hotels.Jal Mahal Jaipur

As you go by the Lake on Amer Road, pull over and take a short walk along the lakeside path to get a view of this beautiful Jaipur point of interest.

Jantar Mantar

Jai Singh II was very interested in astronomy and built five jantar mantars (calculating instrument) throughout India, with the most famous one being in Jaipur.  This observatory was constructed in 1728 and features 19 huge architectural astronomy instruments spread throughout its grounds.  There are instruments that tell time, predict eclipses, track the stars and the earth’s orbit around the sun and coordinates of stars and planets.

To get the most out of your visit, hire a guide to explain the different astronomy instruments and how they work.  Licensed guides are available at the front entrance for 300 rupees for a 30-minute tour.  I would recommend a longer tour if you are interested in astronomy as our 30-minute tour felt rushed and it was hard to keep up with all of the scientific explanations.  I think the kids understood more than I did and particularly enjoyed finding their zodiac signs and the instrument used to calculate the latitude and longitudes.

Practical Information: Entrance is 200 rupees for adults and 100 rupees for children 7-12.

TIP: There is almost no shade at Jantar Mantar and it gets hot quickly.  Come in the morning when it opens at 9 am to avoid the heat of the day.

Shopping in Jaipur

Jaipur is incredible for shopping and we aren’t talking tourist junk.  There are gorgeous linens, clothes, jewelry, crafts, shoes and more.  Commercial buyers come from all over the world to do their shopping in Jaipur.  While we enjoyed window shopping in the Old City bazaars, we did our shopping in the boutique shops of Jaipur and wholesale shops on the outskirts.  The boutiques are fixed price, while some wholesale shops allow negotiating while others are fixed price.

I spent half a day dragging my husband and kids into these shops, and while they might not agree, it was worth it.  We picked up so many beautiful pieces including lots of gifts for family at home.  We bought so much, we had to buy an extra bag, that we then lugged around on the rest of our journey through India.

Jaipur Boutiques

Anokhi, KK Square – they sell high-quality textile clothes, linens, and home products for women, men and children.  Beautiful block prints and cute styles here.

Inde Roch, Hotel Pearl Palace – small shop selling very good quality, hand made clothing and homewares.  I loved everything in this shop.

Fabindia, E Printhviraj Road – Fabindia is a national chain that sells gorgeous fabrics, clothes and home accessories.  While you can visit Fabindia throughout your time in India, we did all of our shopping in Jaipur.

Jaipur Wholesale Shops

BR Enterprises, 29-C, Govind Nagar West, Brahampuri, Jaipur – this little shop was our favourite of the wholesalers.  We bought two duvet covers here and some other goodies.

Ridhi Sidhi Textiles, 9, Govind Nagar East, Amber Palace Road – fixed price shop with lots of linens, quilts, rugs and clothing.

Saurashtra Impex, 7-8 Inside Jorawar Singh Gate, Opp. Ayurveda College, Amer Palace Road – this place has everything from rugs to scarves to textiles and more.  I was indecisive about buying a large rug and they exerted tons of pressure on me to buy.  While the rugs were gorgeous, I am glad I walked out of there without committing.  They can ship your purchases including large items home for you.

We were lucky enough to find these awesome shops thanks to Rachel’s amazing post on shopping in Jaipur.

Get Henna

Henna is a much better way to memorialize your trip to India, than a permanent tattoo.  You will likely be asked if you would like henna by many lovely ladies throughout Jaipur.  We had henna done a few times while we were in India and the quality definitely varies.  Some just rush through a quick and simple design while other clearly take pride in the art that they are leaving on your body.

In Jaipur, the girls had henna done at the City Palace.  We negotiated down to 150 rupees per person for a design on our hands.henna in Jaipur

Enjoy the Rooftop Restaurants

Jaipur is full of beautiful roof top restaurants and there is nothing like watching the sun go down over the city eating some mouth-watering curries.  Our hotel, Hotel Kalyan, had a lovely roof top where we would spend our afternoons after a day of sight-seeing.  The kids would do school work and we would do real work and life was good.

If you are looking for the best reasonable priced rooftop food, check out Peacock Restaurant at the Pearl Palace Hotel.  The food was incredibly delicious (more about that below), although we preferred the roof top at our hotel across the street.

Get Custom Bangles Made

Indians love their bangles and this is one fashion item where more is better.  In Jaipur, they specialize in “lac bangles” made of lacquer in colourful patterns and styles.  We had heard that you could visit a street in the Old City full of lac bangle shops and have some made to fit your wrist, but our rickshaw driver had no idea where we were trying to direct him. On the map I have attempted to recall the location of Bangle Street so that you can find your way there.  It is really neat to see them being made and shaped and to pick out a couple to take home.

Other Things to do:

  • Street Food Tour – food tours are one of our favourite things to do and this tour will show you the best street food of Jaipur.street food Jaipur
  • Ayurveda Treatment – enjoy an Ayurveda massage or body treatment at Kerala Ayurveda Kendra or Chrak Ayurveda.  Treatments start at 500 rupees.
  • Vintage Jeep Tour – explore the surrounding countryside in vintage jeeps on this Village Jeep Safari.
  • Cycling Tour – tour the Pink City by bike in this early morning 4 hour cycling tour with Cyclin’ Jaipur.  Tour cost 2000 rupees/person. They even have 20″ and 24″ bikes for kids.
  • Take a Yoga Class – free classes are offered off University Road near Rajasthan University at 7:30 am daily with some English spoken.

Map of Things to Do in Jaipur

To help plan your time in Jaipur, the map below shows the Jaipur attractions mentioned in this post, along with hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Where to Stay in Jaipur

Jas Vilas (Mid-range) – this family-run hotel is an oasis of calm in bustling Jaipur.  Beautiful architecture, clean rooms and a refreshing courtyard pool make it a great choice. Excellent restaurant that serves authentic Indian food with Western choices. It is a short rickshaw ride to the Old City. Click here to check the latest prices for your dates.

Hotel Pearl Palace (Budget-Mid-range) – is one of the best inexpensive hotels in Jaipur.  It gets great reviews on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, but was unfortunately all booked when we were there.  They have a range of clean rooms available and the rooftop restaurant is excellent.  It is a couple of kilometers from the Old City, but located in a quiet residential neighborhood.  A rickshaw to the Old City costs 60 rupees, or you can hire a rickshaw for the day for 600-700 rupees. Click here to check the latest prices for your dates.

Samode Haveli (Luxury) – If you are looking for 4-star accommodation in Jaipur, choose this renovated haveli instead of a modern hotel chain.  Live like the maharajas in this  beautiful hotel, which is furnished like a palace.  Guests love the courtyard garden, swimming pool, attentive staff and excellent restaurant.  Best of all, being India, this luxurious stay won’t break the bank. Click here to check the latest prices for your dates. 

Hotel Kalyan (Budget) – right across the street from Hotel Pearl Palace, we were very happy with this hotel.  They had large rooms to accommodate our family and we loved the rooftop restaurant and lounge area.  The owners are really friendly and would socialize with the guests in the evenings on the rooftop and bought us pots of chai a few times. Click here to check the latest prices for your dates.

Where to Eat in Jaipur

Lassiwalla, MI Road – we already covered this, but having a lassi from Lassiwalla is a must when in Jaipur.  This delicious yogurt drink served in clay cups has been served here since 1944.

Peacock Rooftop Restaurant, Hotel Pearl Palace – everything we ate here was amazing from delicious veggie burgers to authentic and rich curries to eggs benedict.  Save room for dessert where you can taste kulfi (a frozen diary spiced-pistachio ice cream), vermicelli kheer (a pudding spiced with cardamom and saffron) or a rich brownie.

Jal Malal, MI Road – an ice-cream shop with familiar and exotic flavours that makes a great escape from the heat.

Curious Life, Yudhisthira Marg – this hipster Indian cafe serves only the best coffee in a cool, retro location.

Natraj, MI Road – serving delicious North Indian vegetarian curries, thalis and even South Indian classics like masala dosa, this is a great place to eat.

Jaipur with KidsJaipur with kids

Kids will be enthralled with “The Pink City” and its palaces, bazaars, and forts.  If you buy them enough ice cream and cold drinks, they might not even mind all the shopping they will be dragged along for!

Jaipur Activities Kids Will Love:

  • Completing the activity books at City Palace
  • Learning about astronomy at Janter Manter (hello road schooling!)
  • Seeing snake charmers and having name bracelets made by street kids at Amber Fort
  • Watching and then making their own block printing masterpiece
  • Getting henna done and having custom bangles made
  • Sampling Indian desserts at the Peacock Restaurant and authentic lassies at Lassiwalla

Getting Around JaipurGetting around Jaipur rickshaw

You can easily walk around the Old City (well as easy as walking on a street ever is in India among the rickshaws, cows and cars) and along MI road.  However, it is very inexpensive to take a rickshaw to your destination or to rent a rickshaw for the whole day (500-700 rupees plus tip).  If you want an escape from the heat, noise and pollution, we had good success using Uber throughout our time in India.

Getting to Jaipur

For those not on organized tours, most people will get to Jaipur by train or private vehicle.  The Jaipur train station is well serviced with trains to many destinations throughout Rajasthan and India.  There are 11 trains to Agra daily, taking 5.5 hours (4 hours if you get an Express train) and hourly trains to Delhi, also taking 5.5 hours.  The most challenging part is booking your tickets.  You can book online if you register with IRCTC or you can have your hotel book your train for a small additional cost.

Travel Insurance in India

As soon as you start booking your trip to India, make sure you have good travel insurance.  We use and recommend World Nomads because they know and understand travel in developing countries.  They offer medical, evacuation and baggage coverage in 130 countries for adventurous travelers.

Our Verdict

We loved the 3 days we spent in Jaipur and could have easily spent longer there.  Amber Fort and the Old City were the highlights of our stay, but we also enjoyed relaxing (and shopping!) in Jaipur.  As one component of the Golden Triangle route, Jaipur provides a wonderful introduction to Rajasthan and the rich culture and history of this royal region.

If you are looking for more information on visiting Rajasthan, check out these posts:

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